New Technology Boosts Passenger Awareness at Cleveland Hopkins

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Live flight tracking and weather information, coupled with advertising, has arrived on flight information display screens (FIDS) at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE).

A three-way partnership between the airport, FlightView and Clear Channel Airports has transformed once stagnant content on LCD screens into a loop of revolving information that captures the attention of visitors at digital displays throughout the terminal, in the baggage claim area and at a centrally located customer service desk.

"There is a live U.S. weather display that shows a four-hour loop of radar, so passengers can get a sense of the direction in which the weather is moving," notes FlightView vice president of marketing and product management Katherine Wellman. "We switch between that and an air traffic live screen that shows the Cleveland airspace with all of the flights flying in and out of Cleveland in real time."

Airplane icons tagged with flight numbers allow viewers to track specific incoming and outgoing flights while also giving them a sense of how busy the overall airspace is.

System Overhaul

Ricky Smith, director of the Cleveland Airport System, considers the system to be a state-of-the-art improvement over the previous way the airport kept passengers and meeters/greeters abreast of flight information.

"In the old days, our patrons could call in and get information from an airline or airport official," Smith recalls. "Or if they had access to a flight information display screen, they could get the information. But we didn't always provide customers with the type of data they wanted in the format they wanted."


Project: Real-time Weather & Flight Tracking

Location: Cleveland Hopkins Int'l Airport

Content Updates: Every 30 seconds

Strategic Partners: FlightView; Clear Channel Airports

Digital Displays: 50-inch unit at Customer Service desk, 42-inch displays at 9 terminal hallway screens & 4 baggage claim screens

Other Enhancements: Digital directories that plot paths to concessions for pedestrians

In the Works: Airport navigation applications for iPhones and Androids

Up-to-the-minute information is now available via flat-screen monitors placed where passengers most often ask for information about flights.

"Not only can we tell them about their flights, but we can illustrate it on the screens," Smith says. "This FlightView product provides our customers with all of the information they would ever want to know in real time, whether it be an arriving flight or a departing flight. It is not only informative for them, but some of our passengers have actually talked about how fun it is to track their flights."

CLE phased in its new high-tech approach to FIDS. The first revolving content displays debuted in 2010 at the baggage claim area and information counter. Additional displays were subsequently added to customer service kiosks throughout the airport.

"Each year, we try to build on it," Smith reports.

Revenue Generation

In addition to installing new displays, the airport has focused on adding revenue-generating content to the system. "That has taken off pretty well so far," relates Smith, noting that it has already covered the cost of the installation.

The three-way partnership between CLE, FlightView and Clear Channel enables Clear Channel to offset the cost of FlightView's monthly fees through advertising revenue, explains Jon Abeln, vice president of business development at Clear Channel Airports.

"This project has been a win-win," Abeln says. "FlightView has been able to get their business out in the industry via Cleveland, Clear Channel has been able to generate new revenues with this revenue source and Cleveland is getting some great passenger service."

Above and beyond ancillary revenue opportunities, Abeln says there is a real need for airports to understand passenger service, and CLE is "all hands on deck" for the initiative.

"When we started our advertising contract with Cleveland (in 2007), it was about more than boxes on the wall," recalls Abeln. "They wanted to be more imaginative and innovative with the passengers. Because of their forward thinking, we have doubled the airport's revenue from $1.2 million in top line sales to $2.4 million within 1.5 years."

More Enhancements

With the real-time displays in place, innovations from FlightView and Clear Channel continue at CLE. FlightView went live with flight status content for CLE's website last fall with a mini-FIDS to track arrivals and departures online. The feature incorporates advertising on the website through a third-party web advertisement provider not affiliated with Clear Channel.

In March, Clear Channel debuted the first indoor airport directory with dynamically updated content.

The touch-screen directories help generate concessions revenue by plotting walking directions from the directories to locations of interest such as shops and restaurants, explains Abeln. The newly debuted service even has an option to text annotated walking directions to users' phones, serving as a Mapquest of sorts for pedestrians in the airport.

While most directories use images created by a graphic designer, the maps on CLE's new directories are machine-generated from a database, so they can be changed to reflect updates to concessions and other changes inside the terminal.

"We are getting very positive feedback," Smith reports. "Some passengers that have experienced these products are surprised, to some degree, that this information is made available to them in a succinct format.

"People tend to be nervous and think there is so much mystique around the airport environment, and the fact that they can look at a public monitor to gain so much information is amazing to them."

On the other end of the spectrum are tech-savvy passengers who are more comfortable with emerging technologies. This contingent has given the airport tips about improving its offerings by allowing passengers to synch information to their PDAs and other electronic devices. CLE is consequently working with Clear Channel on a FLYsmart mobile application for both iPhone and Android users. The free app will help passengers navigate through the airport using GPS functions on their smartphones.


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